Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Definition of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)[1]

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) may be defined as the convergence of electronics, computing, and telecommunications. It has unleashed a tidal wave of technological innovation in the collecting, storing, processing, transmission, and presentation of information that has not only transformed the information technology sector itself into a highly dynamic and expanding field of activity- creating new markets and generating new investment, income, and jobs but also provided other sectors with more rapid and efficient mechanisms for responding to shifts in demand patterns and changes in international comparative advantage, through more efficient production processes and new and improved products and services.

Today, the definition of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is much broader, encompassing nearly every type of business. From manufacturers, retailers, banks, and publishers to research firms, medical institutions, law enforcement agencies, government companies, and libraries everywhere rely on Information and Communication Technology workers to run their daily businesses.

Dictionaries consistently define ICT as: managing a Network of computers, creating original web pages, producing videos digitally, designing computer systems as a consultant, selling products on the Internet, 3-D artwork, administering a company’s database, coding software, providing technical support, managing projects, and budgets, writing technical documentation.

ICT is a combination of Information Technology and Communication Technology.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
source: The world of ICT

Converging technologies that exemplify ICT include the merging of audiovisual, telephone, and computer networks through a common cabling system. Internet service providers (ISPs) commonly provide internet, phone, and television services to homes and businesses through a single optical cable. The elimination of the telephone networks has provided huge economic incentives to implement this convergence, which eliminates many of the costs associated with cabling, signal distribution, user installation, servicing and maintenance costs.[2]

The Scope of Information and Communication Technology(ICT)[3]

Information and Communication Technology is a field that has a wide coverage. It extensively deals with communication technology and how it impacts on other fields of human endeavor. It is the fastest growing academic field of study and a viable source of livelihood. It is the convergence of telephone and computer networking through a single cabling system with ease of data storage, manipulation, management, and retrieval. It is concerned with database management, computer programming, and software development. Web designing, mobile application development, Project Management, security, networking analysis, media equipment, computer engineering, computer studies, the internet, intranet, internet protocol (IP), system software, application software, signal technology, base station management etc.

Components of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)[4]

  • Cloud Computing – The term is generally used to describe data centers available to many users over the internet. Large clouds, predominant today, often have functions distributed over multiple locations from central servers. If the connection to the user is relatively close, it may be designated an edge server. Clouds may be limited to a single organization (enterprise clouds), be available to many organizations (public cloud) or a combination of both (hybrid cloud). The largest public cloud is Amazon AWS .
  • Software is a set of instructions, data or programs used to operate computers and execute specific tasks. Opposite of hardware, which describes the physical aspects of a computer, software is a generic term used to refer to applications, scripts and programs that run on a device. Software can be thought of as the variable part of a computer and hardware the invariable part. Software is often divided into application software, or user downloaded programs that fulfil a want or need, and system software, which includes operating systems and any program that supports application software.
  • Hardware – in the context of technology, refers to the physical elements that make up a computer or electronic system and everything else involved that is physically tangible. This includes the monitor, hard drive, memory and the CPU. Hardware works hand-in-hand with firmware and software to make a computer function. Hardware is only one part of a computer system; there is also firmware, which is embedded into the hardware and directly controls it.
  • Digital Transactions can be broadly defined as online or automated transactions that take place between people and organizations—without the use of paper. Digital transactions save time and money, resulting in a better bottom line. Customer experiences are also enhanced (think of the convenience of eSigning versus having to print a contract, sign it, and then return it by mail or fax). And digital transactions improve tracking capabilities—which helps reduce errors.
  • Digital Data is data that represents other forms of data using specific machine language systems that can be interpreted by various technologies. The most fundamental of these systems is a binary system, which simply stores complex audio, video or text information in a series of binary characters, traditionally ones and zeros, or «on» and «off» values.
  • Internet access is the process of connecting to the internet using personal computers, laptops or mobile devices by users or enterprises. Internet access is subject to data signalling rates and users could be connected at different internet speeds. Internet access enables individuals or organizations to avail internet services/web-based services. The internet began to gain popularity with dial-up internet access. In a relatively short time, internet access technologies changed, providing faster and more reliable options. Currently, broadband technologies such as cable internet and ADSL are the most widely used methods for internet access. The speed, cost, reliability and availability of internet access depends on the region, internet service provider and type of connection. There are many different ways to obtain internet access, including Wireless connection, Mobile connection, Hotspots, Dial-up, Broadband, DSL or Satellite.

However, ICT commonly means more than its list of components, though. It also encompasses the application of all those various components.

ICT Components
source: Techtarget

Models of Access to ICT[5]

Scholar Mark Warschauer defines a “models of access” framework for analyzing ICT accessibility. In the second chapter of his book, Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide, he describes three models of access to ICTs: devices, conduits, and literacy. Devices and conduits are the most common descriptors for access to ICTs, but they are insufficient for meaningful access to ICTs without third model of access, literacy. Combined, these three models roughly incorporate all twelve of the criteria of “Real Access” to ICT use, conceptualized by a non-profit organization called in 2005:

  • Physical access to technology
  • Appropriateness of technology
  • Affordability of technology and technology use
  • Human capacity and training
  • Locally relevant content, applications, and services
  • Integration into daily routines
  • Socio-cultural factors
  • Trust in technology
  • Local economic environment
  • Macro-economic environment
  • Legal and regulatory framework
  • Political will and public support

The most straightforward model of access for ICT in Warschauer’s theory is devices. In this model, access is defined most simply as the ownership of a device such as a phone or computer. Warschauer identifies many flaws with this model, including its inability to account for additional costs of ownership such as software, access to telecommunications, knowledge gaps surrounding computer use, and the role of government regulation in some countries. Therefore, Warschauer argues that considering only devices understates the magnitude of digital inequality. For example, the Pew Research Center notes that 96% of Americans own a smartphone, although most scholars in this field would contend that comprehensive access to ICT in the United States is likely much lower than that.

A conduit requires a connection to a supply line, which for ICT could be a telephone line or Internet line. Accessing the supply requires investment in the proper infrastructure from a commercial company or local government and recurring payments from the user once the line is set up. For this reason, conduits usually divide people based on their geographic locations. As a Pew Research Center poll reports, rural Americans are 12% less likely to have broadband access than other Americans, thereby making them less likely to own the devices. Additionally, these costs can be prohibitive to lower-income families accessing ICTs. These difficulties have led to a shift toward mobile technology; fewer people are purchasing broadband connections and are instead relying on their smartphones for Internet access, which can be found for free at public places such as libraries. Indeed, smartphones are on the rise, with 37% of Americans using smartphones as their primary medium for internet access and 96% of Americans owning a smartphone.

In 1981, Sylvia Scribner and Michael Cole studied a tribe in Liberia, the Vai people, that has its own local language. Since about half of those literate in Vai have never had formal schooling, Scribner and Cole were able to test more than 1,000 subjects to measure the mental capabilities of literates over non-literates. This research, which they laid out in their book The Psychology of Literacy, allowed them to study whether the literacy divide exists at the individual level. Warschauer applied their literacy research to ICT literacy as part of his model of ICT access.

Scribner and Cole found no generalizable cognitive benefits from Vai literacy; instead, individual differences on cognitive tasks were due to other factors, like schooling or living environment. The results suggested that there is “no single construct of literacy that divides people into two cognitive camps; rather, there are gradations and types of literacies, with a range of benefits closely related to the specific functions of literacy practices.” Furthermore, literacy and social development are intertwined, and the literacy divide does not exist on the individual level.

Warschauer draws on Scribner and Cole’s research to argue that ICT literacy functions similarly to literacy acquisition, as they both require resources rather than a narrow cognitive skill. Conclusions about literacy serve as the basis for a theory of the digital divide and ICT access, as detailed below:

There is not just one type of ICT access, but many types. The meaning and value of access vary in particular social contexts. Access exists in gradations rather than in bipolar opposition. Computer and Internet use brings no automatic benefit outside of its particular functions. ICT use is a social practice, involving access to physical artifacts, content, skills, and social support. And the acquisition of ICT access is a matter not only of education but also of power.

Therefore, Warschauer concludes that access to ICT cannot rest on devices or conduits alone; it must also engage physical, digital, human, and social resources. Each of these categories of resources has iterative relations with ICT use. If ICT is used well, it can promote these resources, but if it is used poorly, it can contribute to a cycle of underdevelopment and exclusion.

The Societal and Economic Impact of ICT[6]

ICT is leveraged for economic, societal, and interpersonal transactions and interactions. ICT has drastically changed how people work, communicate, learn and live. Moreover, ICT continues to revolutionize all parts of the human experience as first computers and now robots do many of the tasks once handled by humans. For example, computers once answered phones and directed calls to the appropriate individuals to respond; now robots not only can answer the calls, but they can often more quickly and efficiently handle callers' requests for services.

ICT's importance to economic development and business growth has been so monumental, in fact, that it's credited with ushering in what many have labeled the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

ICT also underpins broad shifts in society, as individuals en masse are moving from personal, face-to-face interactions to ones in the digital space. This new era is frequently termed the Digital Age.

For all its revolutionary aspects, though, ICT capabilities aren't evenly distributed. Simply put, richer countries and richer individuals enjoy more access and thus have a greater ability to seize on the advantages and opportunities powered by ICT.

Consider, for example, some findings from the World Bank. In 2016, it stated that more than 75% of people worldwide have access to a cellphone. However, internet access through either mobile or fixed broadband remains prohibitively expensive in many countries due to a lack of ICT infrastructure. Furthermore, the World Bank estimated that out of the global population of 7.4 billion people, more than 4 billion don't have access to the internet. Additionally, it estimated that only 1.1 billion people have access to high-speed internet.

In the United States and elsewhere, this discrepancy in access to ICT has created the so-called digital divide.

The World Bank, numerous governmental authorities and non-government organizations (NGOs) advocate policies and programs that aim to bridge the digital divide by providing greater access to ICT among those individuals and populations struggling to afford it.

These various institutions assert that those without ICT capabilities are left out of the multiple opportunities and benefits that ICT creates and will therefore fall further behind in socio-economic terms.

The United Nations considers one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to "significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the internet in least developed countries by 2020."

Economic advantages are found both within the ICT market as well as in the larger areas of business and society as a whole.

Within the ICT market, the advancement of ICT capabilities has made the development and delivery of various technologies cheaper for ICT vendors and their customers while also providing new market opportunities. For instance, telephone companies that once had to build and maintain miles of telephone lines have shifted to more advanced networking materials and can provide telephone, television, and internet services; consumers now enjoy more choices in delivery and price points as a result.

See Also


  1. Definition- What Does Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Mean? Lis BD Network
  2. explaining ICT Techopedia
  3. The Scope of Information and Communication Technology(ICT) YO University TV
  4. Components of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ASOCIACIÓN EUROPEYOU
  5. Models of Access to ICT Wikipedia
  6. The Societal and Economic Impact of ICT Techtarget